Learning Accommodations

Yale-NUS College Learning Accommodation FAQ

What are learning accommodations?

Accommodations improve learning outcomes for students with physical, cognitive, and psychological conditions that inhibit academic success. Depending on a student’s diagnosis, accommodations can focus on the physical environment, modes of instruction, content delivery, and assessment. Commonly recommended accommodations include assistive technology (e.g. voice-to-text, text-to-voice programs), note-taker assistance, extended time for exams, or the use of a private testing room. On-going learning accommodations may be recommended for students with a long-term disability (e.g. vision-impairment), or may apply for a shorter period to temporary conditions (e.g. a broken arm).

What accommodations are available for a given learning disability or condition?

The following is a non-exhaustive list of accommodations that may be implemented based on UHC recommendations:

  • Quiet room
  • Classmate note takers* – where available
  • Clean or scrubbed laptop use for examinations
  • Extra time
  • Formula Sheets

What disabilities or other conditions warrant learning accommodations?

In the context of Singapore, this is a decision that needs to be made by a medical professional. At Yale-NUS, we follow the NUS policy of requiring learning accommodation to be certified by a doctor at UHC. This ensures an equitable experience across our student body and that your accommodations will be in effect should you take courses at NUS in addition to at Yale-NUS.

Accommodations may be recommended for conditions that are primarily physical (e.g. vision or hearing impairments that require altered learning formats and environments), neurological processing disorders (e.g. dyslexia, dyscalculia, visual perceptual, low working memory), cognitive/psychological conditions (e.g. severe depression or debilitating anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, attention deficit disorder), or social/behavioral conditions (e.g. autism spectrum disorder).  Doctors may look at the type of condition but also the degree of that condition when recommending accommodations.

How do I know if I have a learning disability or other condition that warrants accommodations?

The only way to know is to meet with appropriate medical professionals for assessment and relevant testing. This process starts by going to the University Health Clinic.

If you feel you are struggling to keep up in your courses, or are underperforming academically, it is important to keep in mind that learning disabilities are just one of many, and among the less likely, reasons you may be having a challenging time. Firstly, these courses are supposed to be challenging! For many new students, Yale-NUS academic expectations can be quite different and require a lengthy adjustment. You also might be having difficulty because you have less familiarity in the subject relative to your peers, and you just need a bit more time and effort to catch up. (This is one of the reasons the first semester is graded on a Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory basis.) You may have been a very high-grade earning student at your previous school and are adjusting to a new school and a new peer group. You might not yet have effective study habits in place, and need to focus on scheduling, drafting, backwards planning, and time-management. You may be distracted by some of the many non-academic delights, and difficulties, of the college years. We encourage you to take advantage of the many resources on campus that can help you develop strategies for some of these difficulties: talk to your peers, RCAs, and DFs; visit with your faculty (go to office hours and tell your professor about your confusion!); consult the Writer’s Centre; make an appointment with a peer tutor; set up an appointment with the Wellness Centre.

At the same time that academic struggle does not mean a student has a learning disability, academic success does not necessarily mean a student does not have a disability or inhibiting condition. A student who performs very well in a subject might learn even more and perform even better with appropriate accommodations which off-set an inhibiting condition like ADHD, dyslexia, poor working memory, extremely slow reading rate, debilitating anxiety, etc.

Do accommodations give some students a special advantage?

The College holds all students to the same high academic standards and rigorous graduation requirements. Learning accommodations do not reduce student learning or diminish standards. Rather, they enable students with disabilities or other learning impediments to fully participate in the Yale-NUS academic experience.

What do I do if I have a diagnosed disability before arriving at Yale-NUS?

If you already have a diagnosis before arriving at Yale-NUS, you should bring all relevant information with you to your mandatory UHC doctor’s appointment during orientation. Ensure that you have an updated and valid medical assessment of your condition. UHC will only consider as valid assessments completed within the previous 2 years at the time of matriculation. If your diagnostic material is older than two years, it is recommended that you complete an updated assessment, rather than simply appending note from a doctor stating “still valid.”

What do I do if, after joining Yale-NUS, I identify a disability or condition that warrants learning accommodation?

If you are concerned about your quality of learning or think you are underperforming academically, you should first discuss different possibilities with your Assistant Dean. Your Assistant Dean can help you identify possible factors which may be impacting your learning, and connect you to appropriate resources.

If you believe you may be eligible for learning accommodations, the Centre for Teaching and Learning can assist you through the relevant process (please contact teaching@yale-nus.edu.sg). That process will begin with an appointment with University Health Centre (UHC) doctors to provide you with a diagnosis and, if appropriate, to make recommended accommodations. It is important that you bring any relevant diagnostic information with you to UHC and that you clearly indicate on arrival that you wish to be assessed for learning accommodations. For UHC clinic hours and contact information visit: http://www.nus.edu.sg/uhc/

What is the role of the Centre for Teaching & Learning in Learning Accommodations?

The CTL helps students and faculty implement the learning accommodations recommended by UHC doctors. One staff member within the CTL serves as Learning Accommodations Coordinator for Yale-NUS and takes the lead in developing protocols and supporting both students and faculty in the implementation of accommodations. However, all CTL staff may help in the implementation and proctoring of exams. No CTL staff perform diagnoses or make recommendations for learning accommodations. The CTL receives information about the type of accommodation a student has been prescribed by UHC, and CTL reaches out to students and faculty to explain what resources are available to help. Examples of these include: seeking a note-taker for a student, proctoring exams in a quiet room, proctoring exams with time extensions.

What is the role of Yale-NUS Registry Office?

When a student has been certified for learning accommodations by UHC, the NUS Registrar’s Office is notified, and NUS Registrar in turn notifies the Yale-NUS Registry Office as to what learning accommodations the student has been recommended. Yale-NUS Registry subsequently emails the student, Centre for Teaching and Learning, all the instructors of the students’ classes, and their Assistant Dean, to inform them of the accommodations. Information regarding the student’s diagnosis is not shared with the Assistant Dean or Professors, only the recommended accommodations.

What is the role of the University Health Centre in Learning Accommodations?

UHC provides the relevant diagnoses and makes recommendations for accommodations based on individual student needs. If you want to be assessed for a learning accommodation you need to go to UHC in person to meet with a doctor there. It is important that you bring any relevant diagnostic information with you to UHC and that you clearly indicate on arrival that you wish to be assessed for learning accommodations. For UHC clinic hours and contact information visit: http://www.nus.edu.sg/uhc/ UHC doctors may want to see you more than once and/or refer you to a specialist.

How much does it cost to be assessed for learning accommodations?

According to the UHC, for full time undergraduate students, there is no charge for short or long consultation, or for standard medication. For specialist consultation of a psychiatric nature within UHC, there is a deposit of $10, but follow-up consultations are free of charge. This is a one-time $10 refundable deposit that is collected prior to your scheduled appointment. The deposit is refunded when you have been discharged from a follow-up appointment. More information on billing is available at http://www.nus.edu.sg/uhc/services/billing-insurance/fees-charges.html

However, some specialized assessments, including psychological tests, requires you be referred to a doctor outside of UHC and these tests can be expensive. The exact cost will depend on the nature of the test/ assessment, and can cost $300 or more and will typically not be covered by student insurance. Additionally, waiting times can be lengthy, even several months long. For this reason, we encourage students to go to UHC for initial assessment and advice as early as possible so they can start the sometimes lengthy process of having their needs properly assessed and any accommodations identified.

If UHC recommends specialized assessment, but the cost is prohibitive for the student, the student can apply for limited funding from the CTL. Contact learning@yale-nus.edu.sg to learn more.

I have already received recommended accommodations from my private doctor. Why does Yale-NUS insist students go to UHC instead of using private doctors or Yale-NUS personnel to issue accommodations?

At Yale-NUS, we follow the NUS policy of requiring learning accommodations to be certified by a doctor at UHC. This ensures an equitable experience across our student body and that your accommodations will be in effect should you take courses at NUS in addition to at Yale-NUS. UHC doctors have the necessary depth and breadth of experience to provide relevant diagnoses for our diverse student body and have referral services already well developed when specialists are necessary. UHC also provides a relatively affordable resource for our students, as consultations are typically free for all undergraduates and diagnostic tests range from SGD5-30 per test. More information on billing is available at http://www.nus.edu.sg/uhc/services/billing-insurance/fees-charges.html

 We have spoken at length with UHC staff about Yale-NUS’ distinct curriculum and some of its distinguishing characteristics, such as the common curriculum and its emphasis on seminar discussion and student participation. This helps UHC doctors anticipate student needs and make recommended accommodations that are appropriate to our learning environment.

How regularly do I need to update and re-certify my given accommodations with UHC and Yale-NUS College?

Certain conditions change over time, and so will your needs for learning accommodations. Renewing your accommodations with UHC will allow you to receive an updated medical report on your condition and learning needs. It will also ensure your learning accommodations are up-to-date and best meet your current needs. When you receive notification from Yale-NUS Registry about your recommended accommodations, they will notify you of how long the accommodation is in effect. Some accommodations will be issued for the duration of a student’s enrollment at Yale-NUS/NUS. These accommodations are typically issued for conditions that are not likely to improve with time, medication, or therapy (such a significant physical or cognitive disability). However, other accommodations are recommended for conditions that may abate with time (such as a correctable physical condition or psychological condition). If you receive an accommodation in this second category, you will be told how long that recommended accommodation is in effect, usually one or two semesters. If the condition has not improved, you will need to return to UHC for re-certification.

If you believe that the nature of your learning need is such that an accommodation should be granted to all subjects across years of study, you should explicitly make that known in your conversations with UHC doctors. It is student’s responsibility to note the details of any accommodations that they are granted. If you have concerns about the accommodations and how long they are to be granted, students can raise them with the doctors at the UHC.

What is the student’s responsibility in the process?

The student is expected to initiate the process to obtain recommended accommodations from UHC.

Thereafter, any student receiving accommodation is expected to communicate their needs in a timely manner so that those accommodations can be implemented. For example, if a student qualifies for extended time exams, they need to schedule those exams with the Centre for Teaching and Learning as soon as they know their exam date.

Lastly, it is a student’s responsibility to alert the Centre for Teaching and Learning, and/or their professors, if there are any problems or deficiencies with their accommodations.

What is the faculty member’s responsibility? Are my professors required to implement UHC recommended accommodations?

The College is committed to creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all students. Faculty are expected to implement UHC recommended accommodations, which are communicated to them by Yale-NUS Registry at the beginning of each semester, as long as they are feasible within the context of the course’s learning goals and the professor’s own abilities. Sometimes a recommended accommodation might not make sense within Yale-NUS’s learning context. For example, a UHC doctor might recommend that a student receive lecture notes in advance of class. If a faculty member does not teach through lecturing, and instead teaches in a more seminar-conversation mode, then they cannot implement this accommodation. In such cases, the professor, student, and CTL staff can discuss alternatives that might achieve the same goal given the student’s learning needs.

Faculty are always expected to uphold confidentiality and should not reveal any identifying information about the student (including name, nationality, gender etc.) to colleagues or students.

What should I do if my professor does not honor my UHC recommended accommodations?

If a student finds that a professor is not honoring their accommodations, as communicated by Yale-NUS Registry, they can contact Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL Director Nancy Gleason or CTL Deputy Director Catherine Sanger) for assistance. They can also reach out to their Assistant Dean. The Dean of Faculty Joanne Roberts and Associate Dean Khoo Hoon Eng also have an open door for receiving this important feedback from students. No kind of discrimination in the classroom is tolerated in the College. If the student is comfortable, they may also want to discuss their accommodation with the professor directly; there may be a simple miscommunication which can be resolved. But students are not obligated to have these conversations on their own with faculty, which can sometimes be a daunting prospect in which case you are encouraged to reach out to one of the many points of contact mentioned above.

Can a student be exempt from common curriculum requirements due to a learning disability or other condition?

No. All Yale-NUS students must complete the common curriculum in order to gain a Yale-NUS degree. It is a defining feature of the Yale-NUS experience and something all students know to be required when joining the college. However, we will work with students to implement recommended accommodations within the context of the common curriculum and to help students learn and perform to the best of their abilities.

How does an accommodation work for a sudden injury?

These accommodations work the same way as more long-term disabilities and conditions. You must visit UHC and discuss appropriate accommodations with a doctor there, who will notify NUS Registrar’s Office and Yale-NUS Registry Office as to the recommended accommodation and the duration of that accommodation. For this reason, you should go to UHC as soon as possible following your accident or injury.

Who will know about my condition and my accommodations?

The nature of the accommodation process means that staff affiliated with the NUS Registrar, Yale-NUS Registry Office, and the CTL, as well as your faculty and Assistant Dean, will be aware of the accommodations being provided. All notified parties are expected to uphold confidentiality, and are not to disclose any identifying information about students who requires accommodations. Yale-NUS Registry, your faculty, and your Assistant Dean will only know your accommodations, not your diagnosis/ condition unless you disclose this information. (In some cases, however, such as vision impairment or hearing impairment it is probably inevitable that the diagnosis will be clearly inferred from the accommodations needed.)

NUS Registrar’s Office and the Learning Accommodations Coordinator (working within the Centre for Teaching and Learning) will be informed about the student’s diagnosis as well as their accommodations, in order to anticipate needs they will have during their time at Yale-NUS. Knowing what kinds of diagnoses give rise to what kinds of recommended accommodations also allows the Learning Accommodations Coordinator within the CTL to anticipate needs future students might have, and thus better serve future students to navigate the accommodations process.

What do I do if I feel my confidentiality has been unnecessarily breached?

Please inform the CTL about your concerns. The CTL will follow up with the relevant party whom you feel has breached confidentiality. If you do not feel comfortable discussing this with the CTL, you should talk to your Assistant Dean or the Dean of Faculty.

If I qualify for an accommodation, does that mean I have to use it?

No. Accommodations are recommended but you are not required to use them. However, if you find you are no longer using recommended accommodations you may want to re-visit UHC to be re-evaluated. Your professors will continue to be notified of your recommended accommodations even if you do not choose to use them.

What is the general timeline of events for seeking accommodations?

We encourage you to start the process (and in particular visit UHC for diagnosis and assessment) as soon as you suspect you may be in need of accommodations. It can take a week or several months to have accommodations officially registered and implemented. An accommodation might be implemented relatively quickly (in a week or two) in a case where a student has recent testing and diagnostic information already in-hand which was conducted within the last two years. As long as that student’s needs are relatively clear and unchanged, it should be a relatively short process. However, for a student who is receiving assessment for a learning disability for the first time, it can take longer for doctors to perform the appropriate assessments.

As you can imagine, it takes longer as further testing and more specialists are required to make a diagnosis and recommended accommodations. However, in the long run it is important for a student to go through this process, however lengthy. Appropriate assessment can help students understand their own learning processes and how they can maximize their academic potential.

What happens if students have tests/exams/assignments prior to UHC approval of certain accommodations?

Accommodations cannot be implemented retroactively and Yale-NUS will only implement accommodations that are formally recommended by the University Health Centre. In some cases there may be a lag time between the day when a student decides to seek diagnosis and the day that UHC issues recommended accommodations. In this situation a student would need to take their exams/ complete assignments under the same conditions as their peers. It would be inappropriate for the College to implement a learning accommodation which will not necessarily be recommended. A student who has a short-term medical condition that requires a short-term accommodation can secure a Medical Certificate from University Health Centre with that recommendation included.

What happens if students require accommodations that Yale-NUS is unable to implement?

We hope this happens rarely, but there may be times when UHC doctors recommend an accommodation that Yale-NUS cannot implement. These situations generally fall under three categories: 1) inconsistent with curriculum (what we teach), 2) inconsistent with pedagogy (how we teach), or 3) resources unavailable.

It is conceivable that a UHC doctor might recommend accommodations, for example that a student be exempt from any courses involving mathematics, that run counter to the Yale-NUS curriculum or educational philosophy. In this situation, the CTL would work with the student, their Assistant Dean, and relevant faculty to try and identify the best course forward but a student cannot be exempt from common curriculum requirements which are central to Yale-NUS’ graduation requirements.

It is also possible that a UHC doctor would recommend an accommodation that is at odds with a specific class and/or faculty member’s learning aims. For example, a doctor might recommend that a student be exempt from group-work and this would be something very difficult to accommodate in a class that is organized around team-based learning. While a student enrolled in such a class could not be exempt from group work, the CTL would work with the student, their professors, and with the student’s permission their doctors, to identify ways to make team-based learning a more accessible and fruitful experience given their condition. If students have concerns about faculty members declining to implement UHC recommended accommodation, they should bring those concerns to the CTL which can then liaise with the relevant faculty member to find a suitable solution.

Lastly, there may be cases where UHC recommends that a student have a certain kind of assistance or accommodation that Yale-NUS cannot provide. For example, a student might be recommended to use very specialized software not currently owned by Yale-NUS. Generally speaking, we will endeavor to provide what is needed but depending on cost and how specialized the resource is, it may not be possible to acquire. Similarly, for students who qualify for note-taker assistance, the CTL will endeavor to find a peer to take notes during class, but if no students volunteer or are willing to do the job for standard student pay, we will not be able to provide person-to-person note-taker assistance. This could become more likely as a student moves into much smaller upper-level courses. In such circumstances, we would want to explore alternatives that are appropriate to the student’s learning needs, such as recording software.

Updated on 13 Aug 2018

Learning Accommodations Link

Learning Accommodations Info-graphic